~~A/N: Wow, okay. There’s a lot to say here, and I have sworn not to ramble. First off, thank you so, so much to @*~Starble~* for my beautiful new cover, and your wonderful words of support- I’ve been feeling pretty down about myself lately, and you’ve given me new faith. This update was driven purely by you.
THANK YOU!! <3
Secondly, this fic will probably go on for another 10 or so chapters, and I will try and write more often, I swear. I will upload another one-shot I previously left on AO3 onto here tonight, just to keep you going, but I do go back to school this time next week. :/
And finally, this chapter is quite long, and speaks of past abuse. Just as a warning, and if you choose to give this a miss, that is absolutely fine. It took a sudden dark turn whilst I was writing. But hey- it meant that I actually wrote the blasted thing!!
Thank you all so much for your support,
This was it. It had taken hours, an inordinate amount of shopping (handled mainly by Molly, as Greg had no idea what shopping for a four year old girl would entail) and a lot of persuasion (Greg could be very stubborn when he wanted to, as Sass soon found out,) but finally, finally, everything was in place. A small, green book bag stood proudly next to Greg’s in the hallway, packed with a pencil case filled with all of Sass’ favourite pencils (and some gel pens that had appeared as if by magic….Or Sally Donovan. Greg was never quite sure.) A tiny pair of shiny black shoes sat next to Greg’s larger, worn-out ones. A green gingham dress and matching cardigan lay over the chair in Sass’ room, ready and waiting for what tomorrow would bring. Alarm clocks were set, morning routines organised- everything was ready.
Except for Greg’s heart.
It was but a mere month since he had first met Sass in the midst of a crime scene, and yet the pride, the responsibility, the love he felt for his daughter could not have been greater if he’d known her since day one.
Sass couldn’t be going to school, he told himself. At least, not yet. She was too tiny, too young, too vulnerable. What if she got picked on? Or if she had a nasty teacher? If she couldn’t find any friends? If she didn’t fit in?
In short, Greg was terrified. Sass herself couldn’t wait- there had been no flicker of nerves, and the smiles on the faces of her and Molly almost made it worth it, as they searched the shops to find the prettiest gear they could, and the giggles that ensued as they tried to teach Greg how to do ponytails and plaits. No matter how carefully they explained, something always went wrong, but eventually he managed to make something vaguely presentable, and was rewarded with the honour of trying on Sass’ bright purple Alice band. That photo would come back to haunt him in the future, he felt certain, but apparently, that’s what dads are for, and so he smiled and hoped that the Yard wouldn’t get her hands on it.
It helped, in a way, that Sass was so relaxed about the whole business, but once she was asleep, Greg’s nerves set in once again, leaving him staring despondently at a lonely brown pencil that had not been deemed pretty enough to join the rest in Sass’ pencil case.
When morning broke, everything had gone to plan, and by 9am, Greg had hidden himself deep in his paperwork, hoping that no-one would question the tenseness of his shoulders, or the redness of his eyes, and that London’s criminals would be kind enough to stay put for the morning, at least, if not the whole day. Just until he’d got his head back on his shoulders.
So when the bumbling fool also known as Anderson’s replacement ambled into Greg’s office with a 3 week overdue report, and not the fast-tracked forensics analysis for a case that was being watched by the whole world, he was shocked to receive a bollocking worthy of the Chief Super from the normally cool-headed Greg. And when he snapped at a rambling PC, for whom small talk was necessary at every point and turn, to find something to do and stop wasting time in idle chatter, the frightened lad shut up like a trap, and scuttled away, traumatised, to warn the rest of the Yard to avoid the wrath of the Detective Inspector at all costs.
And when Sally heard that, she was perplexed, and mildly pissed, to be perfectly honest. Greg’s name had been dragged through the dirt a thousand times over in the past few years, and she wouldn’t let it happen again.
So for the second time in the space of five minutes, the PC was shut up again, and tied shut with a threat which Sally knew sounded plausible, but she would never carry out. She swept through the corridors, parting gaggles of new recruits as they got underfoot, and clearing her path with just a look.
A short rap to the door was enough to draw no end of foul language from the Detective Inspector, leaving Sally feeling like she was stepping into a dragon’s lair. Here goes nothing, she thought, pushing through the door.
He really was a sight for sore eyes- silver hair standing up on end where he had run his hands through it, imprints of his nails marring his palms, eyebrows frozen into a deep scowl.
“What is it, Sally?” He sighed, eyes not leaving the piles of paper before him.
“Just came to check you’re alright, Sir.”
“And why wouldn’t I be, Sally?”
“Well, considering you’ve left the new forensics kid crying on my shoulder, and scared the crap out of one of the little PC’s, and now look like you’re plotting my murder, I’d say that you’re not alright at all!!”
Greg’s eyes rose to meet hers, a touch of resentfulness lingering in his usually warm brown eyes, dulling the gleam that normally resided there.
“I don’t see why it is any of your concern. Am I not allowed to have an off-day every now and then?”
“I think this is slightly more than an off-day Greg.” Greeted by a stony silence, she continued in a softer tone.
“Look, I’m sorry if I’m being pushy, but I am genuinely worried for you Greg. I’ve got a meeting with the Chief Super now, about the Davidson case, but then I’m taking you out for lunch. Got it?”
“I haven’t got time, Sally, I-”
“I haven’t got time for you to run yourself back into the ground Greg. Be ready for half one. See you then.” And with that, she was off, leaving a startled Greg behind her.
Have I really been that bad? He asked himself, not for the first time, but still the first time in a while. He had no idea why he was so worried for Sass; she was a bright girl, and easy to get along with, so logically, she should have no problem settling into school. It was natural, he was told, to worry for one’s child on their first day at school, but it was just as Sally said- it was more than just nerves. Dutifully, he brought his work to a suitable stopping point, and readied himself to leave.
Meeting Sally at the door, they made their way out of the office building in fire drill silence. Sally was mildly surprised at the lack of resistance on Greg’s part, but that surprise quickly became concern. It was as if Greg’s usual fire had been smothered, extinguished, being replaced with the quiet, despond soul who trailed behind her.
It hadn’t gotten this bad since Sherlock fell, and Sally had sworn that if it happened again, she’d step in before it got too far.
The silence prevailed until they had both bought lunch, and found a quiet space in the corner of the restaurant, well out of sight and hearing of the unassuming customer. Sally tactfully let Greg start his lunch before she started her questioning; the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, she told herself. “Do you want to talk about it, Greg? Or shall I start guessing?” A few moments of silence followed, in which Greg pulled faces, coughed a little, examined a crack in his fingernail and did whatever he could to avoid making eye contact.
“Greg?” Sally prompted, hesitantly, and finally, finally, with a heavy sigh, Greg spoke. Just two words, but it was a start. “It’s Sass.”
Anxiety flared within Sally, but she pressed on. “Is she okay? Nothing’s happened, has it Greg?”
With many false starts, hand gestures, gap fills and huffs from Greg, Sally slowly pulled the troubles out from him.
“It’s just…. She’s starting school today…. And…. I dunno…. I’m just…”
“Worried about her?”
“Yeah…. I mean, I know she’ll be fine; just look at her’s-she smart, she’s confident, she’s a good kid and everything…. But that’s almost half the problem isn’t it? It’s always the good kids….”
“Are you worried that the kids won’t like her? That she’ll get picked on?”
“I guess so…. I mean, not every kid gets adopted from a crime scene by a single man, and so the teachers might assume… y’know, even though we’ve been through everything hundreds of times over, and even got Mycroft in on it at one point. And the kids might think that because her father was a…. well, a –”
“Fucking loony?” Sally supplied, and her offering was met with a raise of an eyebrow for her language, before Greg continued.
“Well, I suppose so… And they might project that onto her, and avoid her for that, or for the fact that they don’t want to get into trouble with her dad-who’s-a-policeman, or they might not like her anyway and beat her up for that, or…” Greg rambled on, fears spilling from his lips as tears would fall from the eyes of another man, until Sally cut him off.
“Greg- is she worried about all of that, or just you?”
“I don’t think so…. I think it’s just me…”
“D’you think it could be something to do with your first days at school? Did any of that happen to you?” The look on Greg’s face told Sally all she needed to know and more- she’d hit a nerve, and prepared to backpedal at great speed, when Greg suddenly looked down at his hands.
“You could say that. When I was her age, I was the kid that no-one would talk to unless they were in a big group. Looking back, it was because they were scared of me, but they weren’t afraid to pick on me en mass. The teachers were scared to get involved, and we didn’t have the social services in at that point…”
“Why were they scared of you?”
“They were scared of how I looked. With my arms bruised, face puffed up, even bleeding on one occasion, rolling up to school late every day after a pretty nasty mile’s walk along a main road with no pavement or anything, and I never seemed to have a parent waiting for me at the end of the day. They thought I was some kinda thug or something. Actually it was just my da.” As soon as he mentioned his dad, Greg shut up like a rat trap.
“Do you want to tell me, Greg? It’s completely fine if you don’t….”
“Well, I’ve started now, haven’t I?!” Greg coughed, clearing his throat of the lump of fear now firmly lodged there, before continuing.
“My da… he wasn’t a good man. He used to beat me and my mam up if something didn’t go his way. His own personal punching bag. He never wanted a son, or even a wife, but once he got Mam pregnant, then…. Well. We could tell he didn’t want us around. Every look he gave us was full of spite and contempt. He wouldn’t let my mam work, yet we couldn’t afford to eat without her working. She got a part time job once, but when Da found out, she ended up in hospital. Got in a fight, he said. No-one ever looked into it. The teachers didn’t want to get involved with the law, and so no-one ever did anything. The only meal I got was the free school meal every day, and whatever we could get for the weekend. And so it went on and on and on; until my da went missing. They found him eventually, broken up in a dustbin. Just what he deserved, my mam said. Only then did anyone really find out what was going on, and we got help to move on. The kids at school had no idea- it wasn’t their fault. I just assumed that their da’s didn’t beat ‘em where it showed. I thought everyone lived like that. It was odd, when we moved away, and I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to act- the teachers at my new school trod on eggshells with me, and the kids knew something nasty had happened to me in the past, but they never knew what. I always felt so lonely, and no kid should have to do that. And certainly not my Sass. Her story’s already too much like mine.”
Silence fell over the table. Sally had had no idea until just then that Greg had any kind of past with crime, and without thinking, she stood up, and went over to Greg, pulling him into a tight hug.
“She’ll be okay, Greg. I promise you that much. Schools are nothing like they used to be- the teachers are trained now, so they’ve got an eye out for her, bullying is treated like Anderson when he’s making theories instead of reports…” Sally paused as she felt Greg chuckle, “… and she’s got the best dad in the world. Very few people could do what you’ve done for her, Greg, and she is so, so lucky to have you.” And on she went, doing anything and everything she could to unravel years of fear and hatred.
Eventually, they moved back to the office, bumbling along in their usual, awkward manner. This wouldn’t change anything between the colleagues, but the depth of their understanding of each other.
Greg was pushed out of the office door half an hour before he really needed to leave, so that he could get to Sass’ school in plenty of time, and went the kids piled out of school, Sass flew over to her dad to be scooped into a bone-crushing hug. Greg was pleased to see the number of kids that Sass waved goodbye to- his fear of her not making friends easily was swallowed in moments, before they were off. All the way home, and for the rest of the evening, Sass chattered on about her day, and her friends and how lovely her teacher was, and how she was the only one in the whole class who could tell the time.
And Greg listened, rapt and in wonder of how much school really had changed. How the kids had a voice in the school, and how they weren’t just a sea of faces who all needed to have the same thoughts. How they were seen as people, who should be treated equally, no matter of who they were, and where they came from.
Yet another seed was sown in Greg’s heart that night- a new seed of trust, of hope for the future, that before had been dead and buried. It reminded him of one of the hymns his mam always used to sing to him as a child.
Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain.
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
But in the distance, someone was watching, wasting, waiting for the perfect moment to return.